Petting a dog is therapeutic. It lowers blood pressure, stress levels, and anxiety. But, does human touch have the same effect on man’s best friend?
The simple answer to this question is yes. Dogs have been shown to receive therapeutic benefits from being petted.
When a human pets a dog, both of them experience a significant increase in their oxytocin levels. This is the same hormone responsible for the bond that forms between mother and baby shortly after birth.
This hormone not only helps humans and pets feel connected to one another, but it also affects their thoughts and behaviors. Dogs that are petted regularly are less likely to exhibit negative behaviors.
Why Dogs Love Being Petted
Even though there are physiological reasons for dogs wanting to be touched, let’s dig deeper into why they love it so much.
It Feels Good
Just like you may like someone rubbing your back, a dog loves when a human does it. It’s similar to a massage or getting someone to scratch a spot you can’t reach.
Helps with Communication
While dogs and people can’t communicate with each other using back-and-forth words, touch is the next best thing. Researchers have found that dogs may be able to tell how a person feels just by how they are touched. This can help them respond in a comforting way, which is why many people feel as though their dog understands what they are going through without even saying a word.
Petting during training a dog is a great way to bring your pooch’s attention back around to the task at hand, especially after he has done something correctly. A simple pat on the head along with a hand command is all you need to get him ready to learn more.
Provides Health Benefits
Petting provides health benefits to canines, just like it does for humans. These include a reduced heart rate, lowered blood pressure, and decreased stress…all of which can help our furry friends live longer healthier lives.
Vocal Praise – Is It the Same?
Many people ask if vocal praise is as effective a reward as petting, especially when training. Not surprisingly, vocal praise is good but petting is better.
Researchers have found that dogs prefer people who touch them over people who only use vocal praise for rewarding and showing love. In addition, these studies found that vocal praise doesn’t have as much of an effect unless it’s coupled with another positive interaction, such as giving a treat.
While your pooch may like that you’re saying, “Good boy!” he would much rather have you pet him.
The Best Places to Touch
Dogs differ in where they like to be petted. The following are some of the most common favorites:
- Upper chest
- Hips and haunches
- Under the chin
It’s best to start with the back and shoulder if you are just getting to know your furry friend. As you both become more comfortable with one another, you can move to more vulnerable areas such as the upper chest, face, ears, and belly.
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